Thursday, 07 March 2013 00:00

Wind Energy Museum

Written by  The All Things Norfolk Team
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Wind Energy Museum

The Wind Energy Museum - The Morse Collection is a fascinating collection of wind powered exhibits in the picturesque village of Repps with Bastwick.

The Allthingsnorfolk team caught up with Debra Nicholson from the Museum to learn a little bit more about the history of the Collection and all things wind powered!

Tell us about the history of the Morse Wind Engine Park. 

MWEP was created by Ronald Morse (Bob) he moved with his family to Norfolk from Sussex in 1946. He bought Thurne Mill in 1947 when it was almost derelict and he restored it.

Always having had a passion for wind & steam power he began to collect/save and build wind engines at his home in Repps. In simple terms a wind engine is a mechanism for harnessing the power of the wind to drive pumps or other machinery. From an engineering background Bob managed to save wind engines from the UK, Australia and America.

I took over the collection in 2004 having helped look after it for a number of years previous. Bob was still living on site and his knowledge and guidance was irreplaceable. Unfortunately Bob passed away in 2007. He had leased Thurne Mill to the Norfolk Windmills Trust and they have maintained it for several years. When he died he unbelievably left the Mill to me. This was a very special day in my life, I had always adored Thurne Mill and as a child had played around it on our annual visits to Norfolk,  I still occasionally pinch myself. 

However, in 2014 the lease to the NWT ends due to the funding from the Norfolk County Council stopping. This means that Thurne will come into the collection, for this reason we are pushing this year to get the museum seen as a whole collection. With this in mind and the fact that we want to engage with Norfolk's energy community we have renamed the collection - Wind Energy Museum - The Morse Collection.   

For somebody who hasn't visited before what can people expect to see? 

You would expect to see something completely different. This is the only collection of its kind in the UK and the working demonstrations and guided tour gives the visitor a real insight into the drainage systems used throughout Norfolk's history. Each exhibit works on a different principle consequently demonstrating the various ways of using the power of the wind. The structures are between 25 and 50 feet high, made of timber and/or metal construction. 

Tell us a little bit about the Open Days that you hold. 

We hold several open days during the year. They always include a guided tour which tells the history of the site, Bob Morse, and his family's holiday centre activities during the 1950 & 60's. We perform working demonstrations of the exhibits. Souvenirs are on sale and our Strawberry Cream teas are a speciality.

What are the educational benefits of the Park and how do you link in with schools?

The educational benefits are vast as each machine works on a different principle, look different and come from a number of countries. The exhibits here date from the early 1800's and also include Thurne Mill which is just a short walk along the riverbank. This is another working example of traditional wind power. Add to this the fact that we have the modern turbines at Martham and Somerton and the story of windpower through the years is complete here in Norfolk.  Links to the curriculum could be in history/engineering/photography/art and much more. This year it is our intention to actually go out to schools and let them know of our existence, maybe even give talks or slide shows off site.

If somebody is interested in volunteering to help with the Park what roles are currently available?

Volunteers at the Park are very important to us. We have such a wide variety of jobs available; there is - gardening, grass cutting, clearing of certain overgrown areas (the park is situated within 2.75 acres), metalwork, welding, woodwork, sail-making, fence erecting, painting, greasing and plenty more besides!  

How does the Park link in with local businesses and how can they help you to promote and support the Museum?

We have not as yet made any firm links with local business, however, we intend to introduce ourselves to the massive energy sector that is all around us. We are their heritage and together we can tell the story.

Tell us a little bit about the Broads Outdoor Festival and the part the Park plays during the Festival 

This is the 2nd year we will be taking part in the Broads Outdoor Festival. This year we are offering something different. There will be a 10am meet at the Park with refreshments before we walk along the river to Thurne Windpump. Here we are hoping, weather permitting to set the sails turning and talk about the history of the mill and how it ties into the Morse Collection. We will then take a leisurely stroll back along the footpaths to Repps for a guided tour and demonstration of the exhibits followed by a well deserved cream tea. 

Tell us a little bit about the National Mills Weekend and the events at the Park during this weekend. 

National Mills Weekend falls annually on the 2nd weekend in May. The Society for Protection of Ancient Buildings - Mills Section (SPAB) advertise this event Nationally and it is very well supported. We open every year at both Thurne and at the Park, each year we are growing in size and this year should be the best yet.

We will have model stationary engines, vintage motor bikes, woodturners, basket makers and more besides. A guided tour is always on offer with souvenirs and Strawberry cream teas on sale. 

Which exhibit is the most popular with visitors and why?

The most popular exhibit is the scoop wheel that Bob saved from Whitlingham Lane in Norwich. He erected it above ground level in its own area of water and it is run by an electric motor. It gives an outstanding demonstration of the amount of water these scoops wheels could move.

What one exhibit would you like to have at the Museum that currently isn't there? 

This is a difficult one. Bob had a magnificent steam museum in the early 1980's and amongst his large collection was the Somerleyton and Haddiscoe steam pumping engines - he sold these to the Bygone village hoping to give them a home for life but unfortunately when the Village Experience sold out these were taken out of Norfolk! It would be a nice to have them 'back'.

How do you see wind energy developing in Norfolk over the next few years, especially as Norfolk is already one of the leaders in this form of energy? 

I think that the wind energy industry is here to stay for a very long time. I would like nothing more than to become involved with its development. When I look at the Wind Energy Museum (WEM) I can see the heritage and the origins, and Norfolk as you said is the leader in this form of energy and that is the present! I would like WEM to be part of that and follow it into the future. 

If a visitor to the Museum asked you to recommend one other place in Norfolk to visit where would it be and why?

 It would have to be the Norfolk Broads by boat! If they hired a day boat, or even made plans for a longer stay - it is without a doubt the most enjoyable thing to do. Boating is peaceful, gets you so close to nature, heritage, fishing, relaxing and so much more. My favourite by far.

To view opening times etc please visit www.windengines.co.uk

Last modified on Wednesday, 24 February 2016 21:52

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